Rose's words puzzle Fosse
Thirty-five years ago, the Reds wildcat crashed into the Indians catcher.
By JOHN SHEA
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
Twenty years ago, Ray Fosse joined the Oakland A's broadcast booth. Thirty-five years ago, he was decked by Pete Rose.
As anniversaries go, it's easy to imagine which is dearer to his heart.
The more Fosse calls A's games, the more he becomes a respected symbol of the franchise, the longest-standing member of the broadcast team behind Bill King.
But the more he hears what Rose says about the 1970 All-Star Game, the more he wonders if he missed something along the way.
Fosse's not bitter that Rose violently knocked him down on the final play of the July 14, 1970, game, capping a 5-4 victory in 12 innings for the National League and putting a serious damper on Fosse's promising career as an all-around catcher. Rather, he would just like the truth to be told from the Rose camp.
"I don't know what's hard about telling the truth about things that happened," Fosse said recently. "The only question is whether in his mind he did it on purpose or not, and I think now he did."
Fosse sustained a shoulder fracture and separation that went undiagnosed, and he didn't receive the medical treatment he would have gotten in 2005.
Back then, men were men, and MRIs were scarce. So the Cleveland Indians kept playing Fosse, 23, who wasn't the same player in the second half.
Or, for that matter, the rest of his career.
As for Rose, who was in his eighth season, he got a lot of mileage out of the collision, adding to his Charlie Hustle persona on his way to becoming the all-time hits leader.
The game was in Rose's hometown, Cincinnati, the first year of Riverfront Stadium, and the replay has been shown as much as any other when the topic is All-Star history or Rose's biography.
"He actually signed a baseball to me and wrote, 'To Ray. Thanks for making me famous,' " Fosse said.
Not that Rose -- long revered in baseball circles, at least before his gambling habits became public -- needed that play to gain popularity.
Fosse never had the ball
Rose could have slid around Fosse, leg-first instead of head-first. Fosse, positioned a few feet up the third-base line to take center fielder Amos Otis' errant throw, never touched the ball, and Rose rammed his left shoulder into Fosse's left shoulder, sending both men tumbling and rolling, with Rose tagging the plate with his hand.
In ensuing years, Rose made many comments about the play, and one that irked Fosse was about how Rose couldn't have faced his father if he hadn't flattened the catcher.
"That was very devastating," Fosse said. "I would like to think someone would not hit one intentionally. I did not have the ball. It's one thing to hit a catcher when he has the ball and try to dislodge it. It's another thing to hit someone who does not have the ball."
The reminders of the play are constant. When the A's were in Toronto last week, Fosse noticed the replay on local TV.
In Rose's books
Two recently published books on Rose retell the story, including his 2004 autobiography, "My Prison Without Bars," in which Rose wrote, "Hell, can you imagine what would have happened if Ray had caught the ball and tagged me out? He would have been the All-Star Game hero, and I would have been the goat. But I was 195 pounds, the son of a football player, charging toward the end zone with a full head of steam. Ray was standing still. Do the math."
Also in the book, Rose wrote that Fosse blocked the plate. Fosse denies it.
The biggest untruth, according to Fosse, is Rose's account of the night before the game. Yes, Fosse and Indians teammate Sam McDowell and their wives went to dinner with Rose and his wife.
And, yes, the three couples went back to Rose's house and talked baseball. But Fosse said it's not how Rose described it.
In his book, Rose wrote the encounter lasted until 3:30 in the morning.
"He actually said 4 o'clock in the morning one time," Fosse said.
"If I was out later than 12:30 or 1 o'clock, there's no way. As time goes by, these things come out like it was just Pete and me going out the night before, two long, lost friends. Sam had known Pete. I just met him. I don't think that constitutes friendship."
Still has fond memories
Despite the collision, Fosse has fond memories of the '70 All-Star Game, which was played 35 years ago Thursday.
"I enjoyed the experience," he said. "I caught nine innings. I got a hit off Gaylord Perry. I hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Bob Gibson that was almost a grand slam. I mean, it was my first All-Star Game. There were a lot of positive things that happened.
"I don't look back and say, 'Geez, poor me.' I played 11 years in the big leagues. I have a great job. I've been with the A's for 20 years. So if I look at my life and my career and know I was able to play nine years after that collision, I was blessed."
Fosse, who later won two World Series rings with the A's, had other injuries, including a serious neck ailment sustained when he broke up a 1974 clubhouse fight between Reggie Jackson and Billy North, but none will be remembered more than the All-Star collision.
Fosse had a 23-game hit streak and 16 homers before the break -- after the break, he homered twice. He never had more than 12 homers in any other year.
Fosse won't publicly address Rose's ban from baseball. But when reminded that Rose was imprisoned for tax evasion in Marion, Ill., Fosse's hometown, Fosse said, "There was a little irony that he ended up there."